Recruiting Volunteers for Your School Auction

This post is the sixth in a series of posts based on the “Best Practices for School Auctions” whitepaper from the Greater Giving Fundraising Excellence Series. Each new post covers the unique challenges school auction planners face, and how to overcome those challenges. Read additional articles: School Auctions Series

A school auction is a large-scale event and requires a lot of volunteers working together to pull it off successfully.

So how do you recruit all those volunteers? Treat it like a job.

That’s right. Treat your volunteers as if they were interviewing for a job. Your task is to match up the volunteers’ skills and aptitudes with the jobs that need to be done. In a previous post, School Auction Committees, we reviewed the committees and responsibilities required for putting on a successful auction. You can use that list to break down those responsibilities into tasks and identify the skills needed to accomplish those tasks.

Once you have a list of tasks and skills, then you get to find the right people to fulfill them. It’s like detective work. Or a giant jigsaw puzzle. Which pieces fit together? Talk to your volunteers and find out what they bring to the table:

  • What are your skills?
  • What experience do you have?
  • What aptitudes do you have (what are you good at)?
  • What are you most interested in doing?

Another consideration is how much bandwidth each volunteer has. Working parents are generally short on time and may be able to take on smaller jobs. Grandparents and stay-at-home parents often have more time available and may be able to take on longer-term assignments.

Once you’ve gathered all the information about an individual, then you can go through your list of tasks together and find the ones that suit this person best.

If someone wants to try something new and the job doesn’t suit them, offer them a role that’s in keeping with their skill set and their personality but different from what they did last year. Or add a small extra element to the role that allows them to stretch but doesn’t negatively impact the auction if it turns out not to be a good fit.

If you have someone who wants to be the auction chair, but doesn’t have the leadership skills, suggest another post that better matches their skill set, perhaps one in which they can start to develop leadership capabilities on a small scale. Or, if you do decide to make that person the auction chair, make sure the assistant chair is a strong leader and can fill the gap.

What’s Your Experience?

What is your approach to recruiting volunteers for your school auction? Do you have a particular process that works well? What techniques have you found for matching up volunteer skills with auction tasks? How do you handle situations where volunteers want an assignment that doesn’t quite match with their skill set? Share your experiences in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you.


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